Friday, February 14, 2014

Some Random Thoughts About The Silver Screen

By Peg Brantley

Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories

Have you read a book (or written one) that seems to translate easily to film? I've been told by several people that my books, especially The Missings, are meant to be movies. It tickles me.

But I'm not holding my breath.

The movie "Ray" took seventeen years to make. Talk about perserverance.

A lot of books... a lot of books... are optioned simply to take them off the market. Let's say Major Studio has laid out some Major Bucks to make a movie about how easy it is to target undocumented people and offer them the equivalent of the poor man's cash for gold by buying their spare kidney. Let's say Major Studio is still about three or four years away from a real movie when they catch a little thing on the internet somewhere about The Missings and decide they need to protect their investment. If I accept their offer my theoretical movie gets shelved.

But Major Studio, try me. I might be good with that.

Here are a couple of quick concepts if you're thinking about adapting your book and writing a script:

  • Think visually.
    • Simple sentences.
      • A woman is sitting in front of a television. The sound is turned up. Behind her, a doorknob turns.
  • Narrow the focus.
    • While your novel might be 300 pages, the average screen play is 90-110 pages.
      • Rule of thumb: 1 page = 1 minute of screen time
  • Can you deviate?
    • Damn straight. Cherry-pick your scenes.

Do you have a book (read or written) that you'd love to see made into a movie? What makes it a great candidate?


  1. I've written several screenplays, and they have been marketed by agents, but that is as far as they got. The Hollywood movie scene is not an easy one. My husband first optioned his Executioner: Mack Bolan in 1970, and it has been optioned several times since. No fun dealing with Hollywood. Still no movie or movies. I have enjoyed writing screenplay adaptations though (only one original) but after doing a few that sit on my shelf, I figure why write them. :-) Funny thing, just last week I sent a query to a Hollywood agent on the original screenplay which was cowritten with a professional friend, some time back. And yes, Peg, even renewed options for additional time may not result in a movie. We've been waiting 44 years now, and there have been several tries.

    1. I hadn't even thought about renewed options. I suppose if the money is good enough...

      I've heard it's ten times as hard to get a studio to make a movie as it is to get a publisher to make a book.

    2. I believe it is harder to get anything done in Hollywood. At least, that's my own experience. There are times when a production company may want to extend options, and of course, if the money is good enough it would be considered. Tying up your work for a year or 18 months ins one thing, but for additional time, is another. Always the wait for principle shooting to begin.... But you never know...the right person at the right time may get it done.

  2. Peg - I hope your work makes it to the screen someday! I'd love it if mine were to as well.

    I live in Minneapolis and have taken many courses at the Loft Literary Center (a fantastic institution). I took a several week screenwriting course years ago primarily in hopes of tightening up my novel writing skills with the secondary thought of possibly doing an adaptation of my WIP .

    Lessons learned: 1) the economy and 'advance the story' demands of screenwriting can help one improve their writing craft. 2) Adapting a novel for the screen is incredibly difficult (thoughts that I could 'snap off' an adaptation were total delusion).
    My instructor (Miriam Queensen) suggested that doing an adaptation is generally more difficult than writing an original screenplay. I believe it.

    I developed a great appreciation for screenplays and screen writers. IMO it is a distinct and challenging art. I found reading screenplays of movies I'd seen to be highly enlightening and fun ( e.g. "Good Will Hunting")
    Good luck to any and all in getting to the big screen!

    1. You reminded me Tom, that one of the mentions last night was that 300 readers of screen plays were interviewed and the number one problem was that the story starts too late in the script.

      Best of luck to you!

  3. I've examined this quite a bit with my books, have even had a producer or two who took interest in them. The problem, it seems, is that the American Film industry isn't as lucrative as it once was, and from what I've learned, the foreign markets are a much better place to shop your work around. Germany, specifically, seems to be where it's at right now.

    1. That's what I learned the other night. The rest of the world is THE REST OF THE WORLD. It's a different game than it was. I get the feeling Hollywood is a little like the Big 6, if you get my drift.


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